Anglers may see a few more trout stocked in 2018.
Bob Frye/Everybody Adventures
Pennsylvania’s anglers – whether they realize it or not — are enjoying prettier trout this year. Will they get to enjoy more trout next year?
The Fish and Boat Commission is looking into it.
A change in demand within the agency is behind it all.
The commission is allowed to raise 1.9 million pounds of fish annually, said Tom Cochran, manager of southern hatcheries for the commission. That cap is dictated by state Department of Environmental Protection permits.
Those limits haven’t changed in a decade.
But the commission’s demand for trout has.
It’s still raising about 3.2 million adult trout, Cochran said. It’s also still raising about one million fingerlings for its cooperative nurseries, or hatcheries run by sportsmen’s clubs.
But once it was also raising – at the request of its area fisheries managers — one million “put, grow and take” trout. Those are fingerlings stocked with the idea that they’ll grow to adulthood in the wild.
More recently, though, biologists have only been asking for about 600,000 such fish, Cochran said.
“So that’s about maybe 15,000 or 20,000 pounds of biomass that we are no longer being asked to produce,” Cochran said.
The commission, he said, could potentially turn that into 30,000 to 50,000 more adult fish. The exact number would be determined by whether the commission wanted regular-sized stockers or trophy trout for its Keystone Select program.
Commission board members told staff to explore what’s possible and report back. Answers are expected perhaps by mid-summer.
One commissioner wants to be sure that includes doing a cost-benefit analysis, though. Norm Gavlick of Luzerne County wondered if providing more fish will mean more anglers.
It likely won’t, said commission executive director John Arway.
A dozen or so studies have been done over the years in various states, including Pennsylvania, looking at that.
“There is no correlation between the number and size of fish that you stock and the number of licenses that you sell,” Arway said.
Gavlick, then, wondered if the cash-strapped commission should take on raising ore fish right now.
Arway said the commission will look at the pros and cons.
Commissioner Ed Mascharka said that’s worthwhile.
“It’s just a research project. That’s all it is,” he said.
Oh, and those prettier fish?
In years past, the trophy trout stocked by the commission often looked washed out. Anglers noticed, Cochran said.
This past year, though, the commission fed its trophy trout a “specially formulated brood fish diet,” Cochran said.
“This brood diet not only helps our brood fish to reproduce, it brings out their natural coloration a little bit more,” he said.
The result has been “prettier” trout.
“The golden rainbows are the ones that really showed it. The red stripe really stood out,” Cochran said.